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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

CHAPTER X

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

i* SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES

THE contrast between the activity of speculation and the torpor
of practice, which was the distinctive feature of European education
as a whole in the Seventeenth Century, became still more marked
in the century following. In all manner of institutions, from the
village schools up to the universities, decadence was wellnigh
universal. Except in Scotland and in some parts of Germany
most of the common people got no education at all; and many
of those who were relatively more fortunate got their education
under the worst possible conditions. Their teachers were only
too frequently ignorant men and women whose chief qualification
might be their unfitness for any other occupation. School-
keeping was usually regarded as a means of eking out a scanty
livelihood at another trade, and the schoolwork was often done
in the living-room or the workshop of the teacher alongside the
ordinary business of the house or the trade. Even when there was
a separate schoolroom, the children were taught together indis-
criminately without any attempt to grade them in classes according
to progress, and were left for considerable periods to their own
resources. The usual subjects of instruction were the three R's
—reading, writing, and religion—arithmetic being frequently
omitted because it was too difficult for the teacher. This inade-
quate schooling, moreover, was only given for a few years: the
ordinary child's education finished at latest at ten or eleven.
Grammar-school education was for the most part in little better
plight. Here and there, there were teachers of outstanding ability
who kept up the standards of learning, but with the beggarly
remuneration of the teacher's work that prevailed, the quality of
the instructors and consequently of the instruction, progressively
deteriorated. Apart from this, the classical curriculum, to which
the established schools were limited by statute or by tradition,
had lost the power of inspiration it possessed in the days when
people spoke and wrote in Latin, and was hopelessly out of touch

*8o